Perfect Trip: British Virgin Islands
Day 1 I've barely arrived on Tortola before I'm thinking like a sailor: Where's my rum and where's my boat? My friends and I board a ferry from Trellis Bay to offshore Marina Cay, owned by Pusser's, the company whose rum replicates the brew made for Great Britain's Royal Navy for 300 years. We disembark and follow a path from the dock to the breezy, open-air bar where a Painkiller is immediately served to me in a white tin cup perfect, I imagine, for drinking a ration on a ship. This is the drink of the British Virgin Islands: orange and pineapple juices, cream of coconut, rum, and topped with freshly grated nutmeg. I foresee many Painkillers in our future as we sail by chartered yacht through this tightly knit group of 25 islands. Finally, it's time to find our boat, and we return to The Moorings Marina in Road Town on Tortola's south shore to spend the night aboard the Southern Accent.
Day 2 The smell of cinnamon and yeast lures me out of my cozy stateroom. The first mate is pulling cinnamon buns from the oven, and the captain has already tied up to a buoy near the rocky, uninhabited island known as The Caves. After breakfast on deck, a boat and crew from Sail Caribbean arrive to take us diving. The BVI s were once a hotbed of pirates, and legend has it that they used these caves to store their loot. After donning our gear, we find our own treasure underwater: Walnut-sized flaming tongue cowries eat away on purple Gorgonian fans as stingrays hunt in the sand.
Day 3 The captain sets sail before we wake, and we are the first to arrive at The Baths on Virgin Gorda, where we play like kids, climbing and wading through the triangular passageways formed beneath the massive, leaning granite boulders. Later we sail to the far end of Virgin Gorda to Bitter End Yacht Club, a decades-old mainstay of the BVI yachtie set. After dinner we pile into the marina bar where rounds continue until the not-so-early morning hours.
Day 4 Wake up, pull on bathing suit, climb up on deck, dive into sea. I've adapted to the rhythm of this BVI -by-yacht trip, and as I float on my back in the calm, turquoise sea, I know the meaning of bliss. The islands are all so close that we never sail for more than a few hours at a stretch. At White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke, we all swim ashore, handing the bartender at the Soggy Dollar our wet dollars for drinks. Late that night, we dance on the sand under a tin roof to live music at Foxy's and finish with a nightcap at Ivan's, the funky bar at the campground on White Bay. The night ends with everyone stargazing on the beach until our captain arrives in the dinghy to ferry us back to the Southern Accent. It's all so effortless. megan padilla
From the pool deck at the Bougainvillea Beach Resort on Barbados' south coast, walk west along Maxwell Beach, and 10 to 15 minutes later you'll find yourself among the seaside restaurants and charismatic rum bars at St. Lawrence Gap. If you head east from the pool deck, you'll soon stumble upon Oistins, one of Barbados' quaint fishing villages. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it will be in the throes of a beachside fish fry where you can get yours fried, grilled or in cakes alongside macaroni pie and coleslaw, then lime with the locals. If you stay put, the Bougainvillea Beach Resort will fill your days with beach volleyball and barbeques, often to the tune of steel-drum bands. The resort is about 15 minutes from the southern Caribbean's main international air hub in Bridgetown and is shielded from gusty ocean breezes, making for smooth sailing (literally) and eliminating all weather-related excuses for errant backhand shots on the tennis court. Thursday night often means limbo time at Bougainvillea's Lanterns by the Sea restaurant, where fruity blender drinks loosen the legs. Rates from $153. bougainvillearesort .com; barbados.org tim jacob
Sand, Sun and Fun
Stunning Eagle Beach a broad belt of silky sand that tapers ever so gently into the waiting Caribbean rightfully takes center stage at Aruba's Bucuti Beach Resort. As the nucleus of Aruba's low-rise resort quarter on its northeast coast, Eagle Beach and Bucuti offer little reason to venture further afield. Step out of your bungalow into a palm grove; assuage your hunger with snapper, tuna, grouper or mahimahi at the beachside Pirates' Nest Restaurant (a replica of a 16th-century Dutch galleon); and then plunge your toes into 14 acres of sand that leave plenty of elbow room for sun-seekers, beachcombers, Frisbee-tossers, castle engineers and volleyball-spikers. Aruba's far-south location, just north of Venezuela, keeps it hurricane-free and predominantly sunny year-round. This also maximizes underwater visibility during dives to famous wrecks (the 400-foot German freighter Antilla, for starters) for those who want to go beyond snorkeling among Bucuti's resident parrotfish. Rates from $210, including breakfast. bucuti.com; aruba.com tj
Once you sink your feet into the powdery, white sand of Cancún's beach and then wade into the turquoise sea, you may never leave this spot. Ravaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, this 15-mile stretch of beach comprises the island's hotel zone. The beach was revitalized last year by a $20 million recovery effort that involved replacing eroded beach with dredged sand from offshore. Base yourself at the JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa for total sand-and-sea immersion. Sip a margarita from the beachside palapa bar. Try scuba in the resort's dedicated dive pool (though not right after that margarita). Can't leave the beach behind? Try a Mexican Sand Buffer treatment at the resort's spa: Using local sand as an exfoliant, it leaves your skin soft and perfect for even more basking in the sun. Room rates from $238. jwmarriottcancun.com; cancun.info amy cassell